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Pasco County woman arrested in Bank of America scheme

TARPON SPRINGS — It's been a rough two months for Melissa Joyce Giles.

In May, Giles, 30, was arrested and charged with child neglect and driving under the influence after she crashed into another car in Port Richey. She had a child, an empty bottle of oxycodone, Xanax and methadone in her possession.

On Tuesday, Giles, of 9515 Passaic Drive, Hudson, was arrested again. This time, it came in Tarpon Springs in connection with a financial scheme that authorities said bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from Bank of America customers in at least two states.

The scheme involves Florida and California, and the Secret Service is investigating, said Lt. Barbara Templeton, spokeswoman for the Tarpon Springs Police Department.

A Tarpon Springs Bank of America manager became suspicious of the large amount of money Giles was transferring Tuesday. The bank called police.

Another woman and a driver managed to get away, Templeton said. Police are not releasing the description of the other two suspects because they expect to make an arrest soon, Templeton said.

According to police, Giles was recruited to participate in the scheme. Here's how it worked:

Giles opened a Bank of America account Friday with $25. She then deposited $40 Monday.

According to a police report, Giles' name was added to the account of another Bank of America customer from California on Tuesday without permission. Giles then transferred $70,000 from that account to her own.

Later that day, Giles then attempted to transfer $61,000 to another account and withdraw an additional $8,500 from the account, the report said.

Giles was arrested at about 1 p.m. at the 116 S Pinellas St. branch in Tarpon Springs.

"The manager of the Bank of America received an internal e-mail to be on the lookout," Templeton said. "When Melissa and another female attempted to make a very large wire transfer, it raised the suspicions of the manager."

Nicole Nastacie, a Bank of America spokeswoman, declined to comment Wednesday, noting that "Bank of America customers are protected against unauthorized transactions on their accounts that are reported in a timely manner."

"We do not comment on any specific incidents, but we work closely with local and federal law enforcement regarding any fraudulent activities," Nastacie said in an e-mail.

Templeton said the scheme involves "a ring of individuals" who are getting account information of Bank of America customers and managing to transfer large amounts of money. Authorities are not saying exactly how much money or how many people have been affected.

"The losses are in the hundreds of thousands and (Bank of America) has to make their customers whole," Templeton said. "It's happened at multiple Bank of Americas."

Giles is in the Pinellas County jail on $100,000 bail and charged with scheming to defraud. Templeton said other charges will likely follow.

Giles was charged with cruelty toward a child and driving under the influence in her previous run-in with the law. At about 8 p.m. May 20, Giles was incoherent after she drove in a turn lane and crashed into another car on Embassy Boulevard in Port Richey, the Florida Highway Patrol said. She and a child in her car were injured.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, an empty bottle of oxycodone was found next to Giles, and Xanax and methadone were found in her backpack.

At the time, Giles told authorities she had no permanent address and that she had been moving around. There was no indication of the child's age or relationship to Giles. They were both treated and released from the hospital the same day. Giles was then taken to the Land O'Lakes jail in Pasco County.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Pasco County woman arrested in Bank of America scheme 06/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 8:34pm]
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